Reading is an important thing, and it would be great if we could all teach it to our kids. However, it can be frustrating teaching your child something you’ve been doing so long you forgot how you learned to do it. And the last thing you want to do is create a culture of frustration around your child’s education. To ease some of the drama in teaching your children to read, I have written out a step-by-step guide outlining how I taught my son to read.
Develop phonemic awareness. One of the most important steps in teaching reading is associating a spoken sound with a letter or letter-pair. This process is known as phonemic awareness. There are 44 speech sounds created by the 26 letters in our alphabet, and each sound must be taught paired with its letter(s) counterpart. This includes the long and short sound produced by each individual letter, as well as the specialized sounds some combined letters make (like ‘ch’ and ‘sh’).
Take any alphabet toy, blocks, magnets, or whatever you have and make up silly words. Once they know most of the phonic sounds, it’s super easy and silly to make up your own words practicing the sound each letter makes. I’m sure you’re wondering about vowels and rules… we just don’t go there at this point. For now, all the vowels make one sound A – Ah , E – Eh, that kind of thing.
Vincent Lopez, a staff member at the Diablo Valley School, a Sudbury model school, sent me this sweet example of age-mixed learning: "In the art room they are making signs to imitate a TV show that had just started. It is in my opinion, a dumb, low-ethics, media-driven, free for all dating show; I've let this be known before. In their own way they are processing the future to come. ... but I digress. The jewel of this snippet is that the 5-year-old is attempting to read the sign with the help of his multi-aged peers. ...Students learn because they want to get the jokes, be more advanced like the peers around them."
Many of the teaching techniques and games include variations for making the lesson more challenging for advanced students, easier for new or struggling students, and just different for a bit of variety. There are also plenty of opportunities, built into the lessons and games, to observe and assess the child’s retention of the sight words. We encourage you to use these opportunities to check up on the progress of your student and identify weaknesses before they become real problems.
Sue, thanks for your comment. I'd like to do a post soon on children's teaching math to themselves, but so far I don't have a lot of material on it. Several readers have sent stories with some relevance to that topic, but I'd like to get more. -- One of the most common questions I get about Sudbury Valley is, "Why would anyone learn math if they don't have to?" -- That says something about the attitude toward math that our school system instills.
Yet, if reading comes easily to them, they will become readers; and this is the primary idea behind teaching your child to read a book in 30 days. It is important to build your child’s confidence and you do this by getting them to read a book (and doing it quickly). Once your child has managed to read one book, not only will their reading ability go through the roof, but soon they will have confidence in their reading and will want to read more and more.
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It is at this stage that differences between your child and other children start becoming apparent, inside and outside the school environment. Teachers may have to plan special enrichment activities to meet your child's educational needs, while other children are being taught the basics of reading instruction. This is a positive indication that your child's early reading abilities are in fact the key to academic progress. Your child will already be ahead of her peers, from an academic point of view.
A lot of people don't realize just how many skills can be picked up through the simple act of reading to a child. Not only are you showing them how to sound out words, you're also building key comprehension skills, growing their vocabulary, and letting them hear what a fluent reader sounds like. Most of all, regular reading helps your child to develop a love reading, which is the best way to set them up for reading success.
Thank you for your response and suggestions. There are times that we both feel frustrated and lost. I’m glad that kinder teacher isn’t at his school any longer else whole class will have the same issues. I failed to mention that there are 4 other children in his class that can’t read either and they had the same kinder teacher. I will read your book and being to implement the suggestions from your book and email. Thanks again.
First grade teacher Angela DiStefano, a 12-year teaching veteran, says the Literacy How approach to reading has changed her professional life forever. “Before that, I thought it was my job to teach kids to share my enthusiasm for reading.” Now, she teaches them to read with explicit instruction on how to sound out words. Not long ago, she gave a seminar for first grade parents to teach them some rules about vowels (for example: vowels make their short sound in closed pattern words like tap and the long sound in open pattern words like hi, so, and my) so parents could reinforce the lessons at home.
Enter your name and e-mail and you will receive: 1) A copy of our FREE report titled "A Guide to Teaching Your Child to Read"; 2) Our 9 part mini-series which contains tons of helpful information and tips on how you can teach your child to read. 3) A FREE subscription to our information packed newsletter on topics relating to teaching children to read.

My oldest son taught himself to read as well. He was just shy of three and a half when he started reading traffic signs to me. I got him some of the Bob books, which he looked through and became bored with quickly. I was always trying to sneak in a test or two as well, asking him to read out loud to me. When he was almost four I was having some anxiety that maybe he wasn't getting a thorough enough grounding in phonics and whatever. Serendipitously, a friend of ours gave us the "Hooked on Phonics" set and I thought that I would use it. Because I didn't know how well he could read, I wasn't sure where to start. We sat down with the books, and he began reading them to me. Within two hours, he'd read every book in the box set, levels 1 through 5. I decided that I would leave well enough alone, and I put away the cards, cds, boxes, etc. and just put the books on his bookshelf. Since that day I've backed off completely and left him alone. His baby brother is two, and I'll often find them curled up together reading to each other. The oldest will read a story out loud, and the youngest will make up a story by pointing to pictures in another book and telling his brother what he things is happening. We're having good luck with basic math skills just by using Legos and Hot Wheels cars. Sneaky Mommy will send the oldest in to get "Two cars for everybody". When he comes back, I'll ask how many he brought. With the youngest, I'll ask him to go get a set number of cars. It's effortless and they seem to be having fun.
Be consistent. This is pretty self-explanatory. And I know I told you how important it is to be consistent in my post about helping your kids in school… but, don’t use this as an excuse to stop doing it simply because you are struggling with being consistent about it. Every little bit helps! If you can’t be consistent on a daily basis, do what you can when you can and forgive yourself for the rest. This is also not a pass to excuse yourself from making time for these kinds of things. You get the point!

The strategy for learning sight words is, "See the word, say the word". Learning to identify and read sight words is essential for young children to become fluent readers. Most children will be able to learn a few sight words at the age of four (e.g. is, it, my, me, no, see, and we) and around 20 sight words by the end of their first year of school. You can teach sight words by playing with flashcards and using reading programs like Reading Eggs.

Hi, This really is very interesting and informative. I have an 11 year old and he still struggling with reading. Right now I am paying a private school for him, “They claim they can teach him” But I am very concerned, he is an amazing kid and he is so smart, but when it comes to reading, even if someone mentions it, he gets very frustrated, he loves books, he would love to read like all the kids his age, I have hundreds of books at home, and I read to all my kids, I always try to promote this skill, to encourage them (specially him) I just don’t know how to help him, I feel like I am not doing a good job as a mom, just because I can’t make him learn as fast as he want to.
The lessons are all basically the same, but as the child progresses, they start to teach newer techniques such as "READING THE FAST WAY". Admittedly, we stumbled at first. It's a tricky thing to teach a young child to sound it out IN THEIR HEADS, and when the know the word, just say it fast. It took one or two days of frustration before he caught on....and now it's no problem! If you think about it, that's reading. We say the words in our head. This book just adds the step of having them say it out loud, too!
I also loaned it to a friend whose child had fallen below grade level in reading in her 2nd grade public school class. Her mom tutored her with 100 Easy Lessons over one summer. When school started up again, the reading specialist sent home a note saying that she was amazed at the progress she saw, and that her daughter was now easily reading above her grade level.

I realize many people have had success with this book but we did not. My children hated, just HATED this book. I do not want my children to hate reading. I want them to love reading so I quit using the book after only a few tries. It is not a child-friendly book. The book is structured like a textbook (columns, heavy text, few pictures, no color, chapters, etc.) and oversized like a textbook, which is inappropriate for a small child. I can understand why adults like this book as it is more appro ...more
Children usually learn to read beginning around the ages of 5 or 6. In the United States, this will typically be around first grade.[1] Though there are many methods for teaching reading to children, research suggests that teaching phonics is one of the best ways to ensure that you can help all of the children in your classroom learn to read well.[2] Take steps to teach children how to pronounce each letter before moving on to short words and word families. Encourage families to get involved in their child’s learning, and make learning fun for the children.
Learning to read comes easily to some children and not to others. There is no apparent link between IQ and ability to read though. Many researchers believe that some children are simply less phonemically aware than others, which can make the early stages of learning to read more difficult. This means it is more difficult for them to hear the differences between sounds.[17] Thus, you should not assume a child who is struggling is not intelligent.
Instead, we should think about our children as whole readers from the beginning. In his NYT piece, Willingham writes that “comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.” He suggests that parents should leave the teaching up to teachers, and simply read with kids. Read often. Read everywhere. Read for fun. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Explore different topics. Traditionally, the texts in early elementary grades “have been light in content,” Willingham writes. (“Mac sat on a mat,”etc.) Kids can soak in more complicated information and plots when you read to them than when they read texts themselves, so it’s important to keep at it, following their natural curiosity.

Reading Mastery is very systematic. It starts by teaching word sounds and what the corresponding letters and words look like. Next, kids learn to read passages. Then they build vocabulary while increasing their understanding of what they read. Students are grouped by reading level. Reading Mastery is often used by general and special education teachers as a complement to other programs. It may also be used on its own. Teachers tend to use one of two versions. Reading Mastery Classic is for grades K–3 and Reading Mastery Plus is taught in grades K–6.
In previous essays I have referred to the great Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, whose main idea was that children develop new skills first socially, through joint participation with more skilled others, and then later begin to use the new skills privately, for their own purposes. That general principle certainly seems to hold in the case of reading.
In some cases unschooled children progress from non-reading to reading in what seems to observers to be a flash. For example, Lisa W. wrote: "Our second child, who is a visual thinker, didn't learn to read until he was 7. For years, he could either figure out what he needed to know from pictorial cues, or if stuck, would get his older brother to read to him. I remember the day he started reading. He had asked his older brother to read something to him on the computer and his brother replied, "I have better things to do than to read to you all day", and walked away. Within days [my Italics] he was reading quite well."

Around the age of 18 months I noticed my daughter had become smitten with the alphabet. She was always singing the ABC song and she only wanted me to read her alphabet books. By the age of two, (24 months) she could recite several sight words and started taking more of an interest in words and what they said.My daughter is now almost 3 years old (33 months) and she can read several easy reader books on her own.


I have a 7 year old with autism. He is in public school autism class (first grade). When he was a toddler all he wanted to do was listen to books. Now I cannot sit him down. He literally fights me and my 3 year old (who is homeschooling) makes it harder because she gets jealous and throws fits during the time I try to make him sit down and look at a book. He is nowhere near reading now.


I am a public school teacher and I'll be honest when I say I don't read to my son often enough, maybe once a week. However, I keep all my books in his room in the changing table and in the closet. Since we removed the crib side at around 2 years old and he had access to the closet, he's slept with books every night. When I get him in the morning, if he's already awake, he's reading. He's almost 5 1/2 now and he surprises me a lot when he's reading. A few weeks ago he found, "Happy Birthday Bad Kitty" in the closet, which is a comic book/chapter book. He told me the whole story and why the kitty was bad. I know he's mostly reading the pictures, but he's making connections, which will lead to word reading. He reads everything and anything he can get his hot little hands on which includes the travel brochures and maps from Burger King on the highway. We do a lot of board games and puzzles for math. There's no such thing as a quick game of LIFE when he's the banker.


We are a homeschooling, mostly unschooling family. My children are 5 and 9. Reading is an extremely fun activity in our lives and the children have access to books, library trips, computer activities, and art projects that involve creative writing. My assumption was that they would learn to read early and through osmosis because reading is just what we do. But that didn't seem to happen. My 9 year old daughter began "reading" books at three by memorizing the story and then reading it back, she also wrote in pretend writing at that age. It seemed she was on her way. However, I had been a teacher in public school so when she was 6 I had this need to introduce "reading" because I felt self-progress had been slow. What a mistake! Within three weeks my daughter was totally off reading and I had unknowingly discouraging her honest attempts to learn in her beautiful self-directed manner. She a visual learner and extremely creative. We had encouraged cooking, music, dance and the visual arts as conduits for learning because she loved them so. Of course, I saw the error in the reading approach I had introduced and backed off. It took nearly a year for her to even approach reading on her own again.
One of the many things unschooling offers that traditional schooling can't, is the incorporation of learning into the very fabric of life. Coins were counted, identified, compared for size and value, saved for later spending power. There was realizing that all pennies don't look alike, nor all dollars, and that coins from other places look different and have different names than ours.
Other ways to support the reading process is through educational toys and games. These can be as simple as handmade index cards and self-drawn posters or as expensive as computer programs and video games designed for young children. Montessori schools employ a number of excellent methods to strengthen a child's growing literacy. A child can learn to write letters in a tray filled with sand, or rice or pudding. Your child could make letters out of dyed mashed potato and eat her words! You could buy french fries in the shape of letters and spell out your child's name. You could buy a child's computer to introduce her to the keyboard. You could let her draw on your sidewalk in chalk. You could cover a wall with white board so your child can scribble, draw, and practice writing. This could even be the place where you leave her a daily message such as "I love you" or "Good night". Don't be surprised if one day your child writes the same words for you!
When my sons were in middle school, they loved participating in the “Battle of the Books,” a nation-wide program to promote reading. Kids formed teams and read selected books that were high quality and age-appropriate. Then they competed against other teams at their school and other schools, answering questions about the books: characters, plot, symbolism, etc. The team and competition aspect motivated my boys to read, and they had a fun time doing it. I also read a couple of the books aloud to them. Because the books were chosen by a committee of professionals, I enjoyed reading them and discussing the important ideas they covered (immigration, bullying, discrimination) with my sons.

Many of the teaching techniques and games include variations for making the lesson more challenging for advanced students, easier for new or struggling students, and just different for a bit of variety. There are also plenty of opportunities, built into the lessons and games, to observe and assess the child’s retention of the sight words. We encourage you to use these opportunities to check up on the progress of your student and identify weaknesses before they become real problems.


It is two years later. Oral family reading time is integral to our day and the Harry Potter series is our most recent read. A younger friend visiting had not read the Harry Potter books so he asked my daughter to read to him. I wondered how she would handle the request and then she started "reading" to them. The younger childeren were captivated for over an hour listening to the story as she went through it chapter by chapter. I thought she was reading it because of the vividness and vocabulary use in her telling, but I had never heard her read so well. As she continued the story it became apparent that it was all from memory. Obviously she is developing fabulous comprehension skills!
North persevered. These days, kindergartners in Matuskiewicz’s class get a different kind of instruction than their older brothers and sisters did. During the first week of kindergarten, Matuskiewicz sits with each child and determines if he or she knows the letters and their corresponding letter sounds. The skill levels of the children are variable. So, class work in the autumn has to do with “sorting” — identifying letters and connecting them to sounds.
Something I had thought about is addressed in the book as well. Some words are always said differently than how we sound them out. Words such as 'SAID' 'TO' 'OF'. The book teaches the child to sound it out first (as they always should)...but to then explain that it's a funny word that is spoken differently. There's honestly no other way to teach this to a child other than some words in the English language are just weird, lol!
Hi TripleAMom! I am a big advocate of preschool reading and I have looked at Starfall myself. However, personally I found that it didn’t work that well as most kids I deal with are visual learners. For this reason I developed my own system “Teach Your Child To Read & Reading with Phonics” and have had some incredible results, both with my own child and with many others. Many kids are visual learners, including children with disabilities such as dyslexia and autism, and phonics reading doesn’t work that well for them.

What a great post! May I ask for some advice? I am homeschooling my 7 year old daughter. Our curriculum has her learning about 15-20 new vocabulary words a day. She has a bit if trouble. She can read a sepecific word, and then have to read it in a sentence on the next page and completely blanks. What do I do? How do I handle this? She also tends to see a letter and assume what word it is (ex. Haul- she read as “hug”). How do I help her get through this? I have not been able to find any resources on reading for a 1st grader. Also what level she should be at, if that even matters right now. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

No matter what their level of education, parents are better equipped to teach their children to read than teachers are. As both a mom and an educator, I know parents have what it takes – the ability to combine the affective and cognitive realms to turn their kids into readers who adore books. I highly recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons because it gives moms and dads the tools they need to make the process joyful and effective. It gives them the information they need and they supply the all-important love and encouragement.
Hmmm…it sounds to me like maybe you need to look around at some other supplemental reading curriculum out there. When you say that she is learning 20 new “vocabulary” words a day, do you mean that she is supposed to memorize these by sight? If so, I think you might be better off spending at least a little bit more time teaching elements of phonemic awareness and phonics (to where she will have the skills to actually learn to decode a word and not just memorize it). I used a curriculum called “Pathways to Reading” (linked to above in the “phonemic awareness section) in my first grade classroom and it was AMAZING! It taught all of the vowel sounds as well as blends, digraphs, and phonics rules. I would say that with ANY reading curriculum you use, you need a healthy balance that focuses on: reading comprehension, phonemic awareness, phonics, sight words, and vocabulary. Hope that helps!
My little girl and her brother are now just turned 8 and 6.5. Both are avid readers, reading well above grade level. The 6.5 year-old began reading when he was 5, by sitting down and reading me all of Green Eggs and Ham (not memorized), and is starting to delve into chapter books. My 8 year-old is in the midst of Anne of Green Gables, and my 3.5 year-old is asking me to spell random words at random moments.
Thanks for your post…can I ask you for some advice??? My 5 year old knows all the parts of reading, but isn’t reading on her own yet. What I mean is she knows all her letter names and sounds, knows how to sound out words, knows several dozen sight words, knows to read a book from front to back, top to bottom, left to right, etc. But something isn’t clicking. If I had to guess its like she thinks she should have every word memorized and she should just know all the words by sight, and if she doesn’t, then in her mind, she can’t read it. I’m at a loss to help her over this seemingly final hurdle. Sorry to bother you with my personal situation, but your post on reading caught me on a day that I’ve really been stressing over this. Any advice is much appreciated.
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